My favorite comedian, the late Mitch Hedberg, once cracked: “Every book is a children’s book as long as the kid can read!”
Clearly, this statement is little more than an uninformed generalization with the singular goal of eliciting a chuckle. But, I must admit, as a card-carrying member of the “Make ‘em laugh any way you can” brigade, the silly one-liner actually gave me pause. Because, more and more, Young Adult Literature that I see as a middle school teacher is taking on content and themes that, often, is more “adult” than “young.” The ensuing internal debate has become a sort of “Chicken or The Egg” conundrum that I’ve yet to resolve.
Then, upon being invited to write for Fringe, I was referred to another column in a popular blog on YAL. And, I totally dug the snarky, “I love the 80’s”-style reviews of books from our collective childhood, having consequently been inspired to unearth lots of dusty paperbacks in my basement. And, while it’s most certainly been quite a trip to revisit these characters and stories through grown up eyes, as I read, something strikes me. Though I feel very close to these books out of nostalgia, I can’t remember ever being to relate to them as a moody, lower-middle class kid, coming of age in the neon nineties.
And so, it is in the same spirit with which I immediately removed the archaic Where The Red Fern Grows, and A Wrinkle In Time from my sixth-graders’ required reading curriculum, that I have decided--for the purposes of this column--to stick to YAL. and authors from the last two decades. But I promise—no annoying little wizards. Ever.
Be back in two weeks, with Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever, 1793.